World Health Organization to discuss safety of AstraZeneca vaccine

Director-general of WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (Photo: AFP / FABRICE COFFRINI)

 As the list of European countries to suspend use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine grows, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) vaccine experts will meet to discuss the matter.

WHO’s advisory committee on vaccine safety, who have been reviewing the available data, are to meet today.

Despite the concerns raised about “possible side effects” of the vaccine, the global organisation notes the vaccine benefits outweigh potential risks.

“Of the 300 million doses that are being given to people across the world, of course using different vaccines. There is no documented death that’s been linked to a COVID vaccine,” said WHO’s chief scientist , Soumya Swaminathan at a media briefing on Monday (March 15).

“So I think that’s why we need to continue to be very closely monitoring this. We do not want people to panic. And we would for the time being recommend that countries continue vaccinating with AstraZeneca but we will have more updates,” she added.

Director-general of WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, shared similar sentiments, noting that a thorough investigation will be conducted.

“This does not necessarily mean these events are linked to vaccination, but it’s routine practice to investigate them, and it shows that the surveillance system works and that effective controls are in place”, Ghebreyesus said.

Germany, France, Italy and Spain are the latest countries to temporarily halt use of the shot, following reports of blood clots in people who received the vaccine from two batches produced in Europe.